SPORTS

AEK sustains its title challenge with 4-0 victory over Panionios

Nikos Lyberopoulos scored a hat trick yesterday to help league challenger AEK beat Panionios 4-0 in a Super League game that brought the competition to the midway mark. The league now goes on a three-week holiday break. Leonidas Kapandais also scored for AEK, which is in second place with 34 points, five behind league leader Olympiakos and three ahead of Panathinaikos, which lost 3-1 to Kerkyra. Also yesterday, it was: Aegaleo 2, Ergotelis 0; Larissa 0, Apollon 1; and OFI 1, PAOK 0. AEK took the lead in the 23rd minute when Lyberopoulos headed home a corner by Daniel Tozser. Lyberopoulos made it 2-0 in the 52nd when he tapped in a pass from Vassilis Lakis before adding his 10th goal of the season in the 70th with a powerful drive. Kapandais made it 4-0 in the 77th. Panathinaikos – looking to sweep aside a midweek 4-0 UEFA Cup thrashing at Paris St Germain that nevertheless left the Athens club at the top of its group – lost to Kerkyra, virtually putting an end to its title hopes. A penalty by Dimitris Papadopoulos gave Panathinaikos a first-half lead, but second-half goals from Frank Guella, Giorgos Zacharapoulos and Da Silva gave Kerkyra the win. Playing a day earlier on Saturday, Olympiakos beat last-placed Ionikos 3-0 with two goals from Ieroklis Stoltidis. Julio Cesar scored the other goal. Also Saturday, it was: Atromitos 1, Aris 1; and Iraklis 1, Xanthi 0. Olympiakos started aggressively against last-placed Ionikos before Stoltidis scored with a powerful right-foot drive in the 43rd. Cesar connected with a corner from Rivaldo in the 79th to powerfully head in the second goal past Ionikos goalkeeper Giorgos Kantimiris. Stoltidis sealed an easy win four minutes before the final whistle, sliding the ball past Kantimiris from inside the area. (AP, Kathimerini)